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Thousands still struggle with KS Department of Labor for benefits, no end to the mess in sight

Thousands still struggle with KS Department of Labor for benefits, no end to the mess in sight

FAIRWAY, KS (KCTV) -- Matthew DeWolfe can tell you a thing or two about the Kansas Department of Labor. None of it is good.

“It was an average of 150 to 160 calls before I could get through. Hang up. Redial. Hang up. Redial,” Matthew DeWolfe said.

DeWolfe is like thousands across Kansas trying to straighten out benefits.

“I even had one lady that said, ‘Congratulations! This is so exciting! The supervisor just pressed the button! You should have it on Monday!!!!” Matthew DeWolfe said.

That never happened... and seven months have rolled by.

His claim is still under review a process which DeWolfe describes as “maddening.”

His family is down to $300 in the bank account and will soon lose car insurance. One car may be repossessed. The goal is simply food and utilities.

Statewide mess

Many states struggled with the sudden wave of residents needing benefits. Kansas isn’t alone.

But seven months in, Kansas does appear to be exceptional in its inability to pay people who deserve benefits.

Facebook groups have popped up as strangers try to walk each other through things like food stamps now that safety nets have clearly failed.

KCTV5 previously interviewed a single mother who lost her apartment, car and even the support dog for her autistic child when Kansas failed to pay her pandemic unemployment benefits.

Michelle Tran has since received some benefits but points out the damage has been done and her credit is now destroyed.

She’s bunking in with a friend in California.

KCTV5 posted in a Facebook group for those struggling with unemployment. More than 100 people responded:

“Unemployed back in March and April and still have not received a penny due to IT problems.”“No payment since May.”“It is working on it. 6 1/2 months later still ‘glitches’.”“Thank god I have an understanding landlord! If I didn’t, me and my two kids would be homeless. Oh, and btw, I have Covid.”“What happened to Governor Kelly saying any mistakes they made, they would make good on?"

Who’s responsible for the mess?

The Kansas Department of Labor has long explained the department is plagued with IT problems and ancient computer systems. Some seven months later, those excuses are wearing thin.

The Governor has spoken out about the challenges.

On June 22, she accepted the resignation of the current secretary.

“Mistakes were made and I’m taking responsibility for them. We are going to fix them and move quickly and aggressively,” said Governor Laura Kelly. “I am committed to making transparent and through improvements to our system to ensure Kansans who are out of work, through no fault of their own, are getting the assistance they need.”

The KS DOL has declined any on camera interviews. A spokesperson previously responded with explanations of computer problems and promises that glitches were being fixed.

We were recently directed to the governor’s office for comment. Governor Kelly declined an on-camera interview but did answer a list of questions submitted by our iTeam.

Below is a summary of her responses. For a complete look Q&amp;A <a href="https://www.kctv5.com/news/investigations/full-q-a-with-governor-kelly-regarding-kansas-department-of-labor/article_d5748d50-11a2-11eb-a562-5761a4068234.html" target="_blank">click here</a>.

“We continue to make progress. However, we are working with, and attempting to improve, technology from the 1970s. This administration was the first, after 40 years, to begin the modernization process for replacing our mainframe computer system that was implemented in the 70’s.""We are putting a plan together for the next legislative session. We have been told that the cost to modernize our legacy systems could range from $30-50 million.""All of the federal programs will continue to pay out, if a claim is found to be valid and occurred within the eligible time-period, even if the program has ended. The only current exception to this is the Lost Wage Assistance Program. LWAP was administered by FEMA and was only active for six weeks. Around 110,000 Kansans qualified for that program and we are set to make the final payments next week."

14,000 people are currently owed benefits and are part of the backlog. That is an improvement from 25,000 people in August.

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KCPD investigating city's 150th homicide

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- The Kansas City, Missouri Police Department is investigating after a man was fatally shot on Thursday night.

According to police, it happened in the 10400 block of E. 42nd St. at Stonegate Meadows Apartments just after 8 p.m.

Witnesses said they heard gunshots and then saw a man running from a back parking lot into the apartment building.

They said the man appeared to have been shot, so witnesses said they tried to render aid while waiting for officers to arrive.

When officers arrived, they found a man on the floor in one of the apartment building's hallways who had apparently been shot. He was declared dead at the scene.

On Saturday, the victim was identified as 22-year-old Patrick Sanders.

Detectives are working to gather more information on what led up to the shooting. There is no suspect information at this time.

Anyone with information is asked to call the KCPD's Homicide Unit Directly at 816-234-5043 or the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477). Information leading to an arrest could result in a $25,000 cash reward.

This is the city's 150th homicide.

At this time last year, there were 120. There were 151 homicides in all of 2019.

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Motorcyclist dies in 2-car crash on I-435 in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- A deadly crash involving a motorcycle and an SUV blocked northbound traffic at I-435 and Blue Parkway on Wednesday morning in Kansas City.

Emergency crews responded around 6:45 a.m. to the scene, after which the motorcyclist involved was pronounced dead, according to Kansas City police. No other significant injuries were reported.

The crash shut down the exit from northbound I-435 to Blue Parkway, and also blocked all northbound traffic along Blue Parkway.

On Thursday, the person who died in this crash was identified as 59-year-old Mark Gish from Kansas City, Missouri.

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Police: 1 dead after vehicle hits tree near 56th, Indiana in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- One person is dead Wednesday morning after a single-vehicle wreck in the Northland.

The crash happened about 7 a.m. near East 56th Street and Indiana Avenue.

Officers say the driver hit a tree and died. No other vehicles were involved.

The victim has been identified as 21-year-old Daniel L. Carson Jr.

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Finalists for Kansas Supreme Court all women for 1st time

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Laura Kelly is set to fill a vacancy on the Kansas Supreme Court from the first all-female group of finalists in state history, though the state's most influential anti-abortion group is publicly opposing one of the candidates.

The Democratic governor has until Dec. 5 to choose one of the three finalists named by the state's nominating commission earlier this week. They are state Court of Appeals Judge Melissa Taylor Standridge, Washington County District Judge Kim Cudney and Kristen Wheeler, a Wichita attorney who is a clerk for a federal judge.

It will be Kelly's third appointment to the seven-member court in less than two years in office, and under the state constitution, her choice is not subject to review by the Republican-controlled Legislature — a sore point for many lawmakers, particularly conservatives. Governors have had to win Senate confirmation since 2013 for their nominees to the state's second-highest court, the Court of Appeals.

The anti-abortion group Kansans for Life is opposing Standridge because she sided <a href="https://apnews.com/article/3bdefd723a654880b8c39662bf96f49e" target="&mdash;blank">in a 2016 ruling</a> with other judges who said the state constitution protects abortion rights. The appeals court split 7-7 on the case, and the Kansas Supreme Court <a href="https://apnews.com/article/3f479b218a6140719e1694fcfcdb8036" target="&mdash;blank">ruled last year</a> that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right under the state's Bill of Rights.

But Mikel Stout, a retired Wichita attorney and chairman of the nominating commission, said he wasn't aware of the group's opposition to Standridge. He said the commission's focus was finding the three most-qualified finalists among the 11 applicants seeking to replace retired Justice Carol Beier.

“We want people who are smart. We want people who are responsible. We want people who are trustworthy. We want people who can write well, and we want people who we have confidence have the integrity to handle an important position like this and stand up and be counted when it's necessary,” Stout said in an interview Wednesday.

With the latest appointment, the Kansas Supreme Court will continue to have three female justices. <a href="https://apnews.com/article/b2b658ee21fd3284fbe388ddd7e5b52c" target="&mdash;blank">Chief Justice Marla Luckert,</a> who rose to that position late last year, is the second woman to lead the court, after the late Chief Justice Kay McFarland, who led it from 1995 until 2009.

“The number of women working as attorneys and serving as judges has steadily grown since the beginning of my own legal career, yet it was history-making when the nominating commission advanced the names of these three well-qualified, accomplished women to be considered to serve on our state’s highest court,” Luckert said in a statement Wednesday.

Standridge declined to respond to Kansans for Life's criticism of her as “pro-abortion.” She has served on the Court of Appeals since 2008 and was an appointee of then-Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, and Stout said she's has a distinguished record on the appeals court.

Justices stand for an up or down vote every six years to determine whether they stay on the court, and Kansans for Life opposed Beier, another Sebelius appointee, because of her position in abortion cases. The group also opposed Kelly's first appointee last year, <a href="https://apnews.com/article/cee0a93ae2dd64cf87dae4070b2fb41d" target="&mdash;blank">Justice Evelyn Wilson.</a> Like Sebelius, Kelly is a strong supporter of abortion rights.

Cudney has served as the chief judge since 2006 in a six-county north-central Kansas judicial district that borders Nebraska, overseeing six magistrates. Stout cited that experience as making her qualified for the state's highest court.

Stout touted Wheeler as a well-regarded Wichita lawyer who's practiced there since 2006. She's currently serving as a law clerk for Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Marten, and her father is the chief judge for Chase and Lyon counties in eastern Kansas.

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/apjdhanna" target="&mdash;blank">https://twitter.com/apjdhanna</a>

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Kansas COVID-19 hospitalizations spike; emergency extended

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Top Republican legislators signed off Wednesday on Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's request to extend a state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic as the state set another record for COVID-19-related hospitalizations.

Eight leaders of the GOP-controlled Legislature, six of them Republicans, quickly and unanimously approved Kelly's plan to extend the state of emergency until Nov. 15. Under a law enacted in June, top lawmakers must consider an extension once a month, and without their approval, the state of emergency would have expired Oct. 15, possibly hindering the ability of the state to move supplies and personnel around.

Wednesday's meeting was in sharp contrast to a contentious one last month, when top Republican leaders extracted a public promise from Kelly not to try to close businesses statewide again as she did in the spring. GOP leaders and the governor have been at odds for months over her handling of the pandemic and have forced her to accept local control over mandating mask-wearing, reopening schools and restricting businesses and public gatherings.

The state Department of Health and Environment reported that had another 1,244 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases since Monday, an increase of 2%, to bring the pandemic total to 63, 952. The state averaged 600 new cases a day during the seven-day period ending Wednesday.

The health department also reported 85 new coronavirus-related hospitalizations since Monday, an increase of 2.8% for a pandemic total of 3,121. The state averaged 29.14 new hospitalizations a day for the seven days ending Wednesday, nearly 11% higher than the previous record of 26.29 for the seven days ending Monday.

Hospitalizations represent about 4.9% of the reported cases, and that percentage has fallen over time after being as high as 25% during the first month after the pandemic reached Kansas.

COVID-19-related deaths have continued to represent about 1.1% of total cases. The state health department reported another 17 since Monday, to bring the total for the pandemic to 723.

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

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A very Covid Christmas: Mall Santas will see kids from behind plexiglass snowglobes

Be prepared for awkward family photos with Santa this year.

While <a href="https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/coronavirus-pandemic-10-06-20-intl/index.html" target="_blank">the pandemic</a> won't keep Santa Claus from making an appearance at the mall or at <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/14/media/thanksgiving-parade-nbc/index.html" target="_blank">Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade</a>, don't count on touching Santa, hugging Santa, or having the kids sit on his lap this year. Some mall operators are even offering <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/01/tech/zoom-profits/index.html" target="_blank">Zoom</a> calls with Santa instead of in-person visits.

Brookfield Properties, a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management Property Partners and the second largest <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/18/business/malls-repurpose-empty-stores/index.html" target="_blank">mall</a> operator in the country, said Santa will be in 134 of its more than 150 malls.

"Santa is an important holiday tradition for many families but we are looking to pivot the experience for safety," said Rocell Viniard, director of portfolio marketing with Brookfield Properties. The idea, she said, is to enable a "touchless experience" with Santa.

That means no sitting on Santa's lap, said Viniard.

Santa will also wear a mask in states with a mask mandate, and guests will be required to do the same. In states with no mask requirement, Santa can wear a mask if he wants to, she said.

Brookfield said it is not requiring Santa or mall visitors to sign waivers in locations where masks are not a local or state requirement. Social distancing stickers will show people where to stand, and many properties will have special decor that keeps people six feet away from Santa.

"Every [visit] will be contactless. So kids can sit on wrapped packages near Santa, or across the table from Santa and have a conversation. We can still capture the memory for family photos," said Viniard.

In some of its malls where Santa will make an appearance beginning November 20, he'll meet and greet with families while appearing to sit inside a giant snow globe. In other locations, Santa will be behind a giant picture frame.

"Think of this like a drive-up window type of scenario," said Viniard. "Guests will be able to walk up and have their conversation with Santa and then turn for the framed photo."

For anyone who wants to skip a trip to the mall, Viniard said Brookfield is also launching a virtual visit with Santa experience, which kicks off on Nov. 1. Reservations can be made through the website ExperienceJingleRing.com.

Simon Properties, the largest mall operator in the US, said Santa will also be coming to its malls this year but declined to offer any details.

Santa on Zoom and behind plexiglass

Mall operator Preit, which owns 19 malls primarily on the East Coast, including the Cherry Hill mall in New Jersey and the Willow Grove mall in Pennsylvania, is placing Santa behind plexiglass.

"It's a plexiglass barrier and Santa in each of our locations will sit behind it. It will have a bench in front of it so kids can sit down and take a photo with Santa," said Heather Crowell, spokesperson for Preit.

Another option is a Zoom visit with Santa for families from their own homes, said Crowell. "In lieu of a photo with Santa, you can have a recording of your Zoom call," she said, adding that both the in-person and virtual visit with Santa will require a reservation.

Crowell said visitors to Preit malls are required to wear masks but children can remove their mask for the photo with Santa and Santa can as well, "since he's behind Plexiglass."

At the 43 malls operated by Macerich, Santa will start his appearances in late November. Macerich said it will also implement safety protocols for Santa visits, including social distancing, wearing a mask (if the local municipality requires it) and making a reservation to avoid crowding, said Kurt Ivey, vice president of marketing with Macerich.

Safety is paramount for Santas working this holiday, according to the head of one Santa school.

Rick Rosenthal, or "Santa Rick" as he calls himself, has played Santa at malls and private events for 50 years. He is also dean and cofounder of the Northern Lights Santa Academy, a Santa school in Atlanta which holds training classes twice a year in the spring and fall.

Based on his conversations with graduates of the school and other Santas elsewhere, he expects more than 30% of Santas who worked last year won't be working this holiday season because of the pandemic.

"Santas are typically in a minimum of two high-risk categories for the coronavirus. They are usually individuals over the age of 65 and they are overweight," he said. "So even to do this job in a pandemic can be life-threatening."

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Several major KC-area school districts head back to classes in-person

Several major KC-area school districts head back to classes in-person

KANSAS CITY METRO (KCTV) -- Several school districts across the Kansas City area begin bringing students back into the classroom starting Monday.

Shawnee Mission, Lee's Summit, Blue Valley and Independence are all transitioning some of their grades into more in-person classes this week:

Shawnee Mission School District is taking on a hybrid approach, allowing pre-K through second-graders to learn inside school buildings two days a week. Third through sixth-graders will begin doing the same next week. The district is targeting full in-person classes for elementary school students starting Oct. 19.Lee's Summit School District is offering in-person classes two days a week for fourth through 12th-graders. They were previously entirely remote. Kindergarteners through third-graders will remain full in-person.Within the Independence School District, elementary school students have been full in-person, and middle school and high schoolers have alternated weeks in the classroom---one week in-person, the next week remote. Beginning Monday, high school seniors can go back to classes full in-person. The district will re-evaluate before giving the go-ahead to other grade levels.Blue Valley School District will now have elementary school students full in-person, and middle-to-high-school students will be on the hybrid learning model based on last name.

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Reports: Patriots QB Cam Newton tests positive for COVID-19

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – According to reports, Cam Newton has tested positive for the coronavirus.

NFL Insider Adam Schefter posted a tweet Saturday morning stating that the Patriots’ QB tested positive.

Patriots’ QB Cam Newton tested positive and is out for Sunday’s game vs. Kansas City, per <a href="https://twitter.com/FieldYates?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@FieldYates</a> and me.&mdash; Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) <a href="https://twitter.com/AdamSchefter/status/1312408359774060544?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 3, 2020</a>

The New England Patriots posted a statement on Twitter saying in part, “Late last night, we received notice that a Patriots player tested positive for COVID-19.”

Official statement from the Patriots: <a href="https://t.co/Xh9nQKTIly">pic.twitter.com/Xh9nQKTIly</a>&mdash; Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) <a href="https://twitter.com/AdamSchefter/status/1312410876176105478?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 3, 2020</a>

The Patriots are supposed to be heading to Kansas City to play the Chiefs Sunday at 3:25 p.m. According to Schefter, the Patriots are on standby to head to KC as they await more test results.

Patriots were scheduled to leave for KC at about 1 ET; trip now is on standby as they await more test results and guidance from the NFL.&mdash; Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) <a href="https://twitter.com/AdamSchefter/status/1312411391823929345?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 3, 2020</a>

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A deadly year: 1 woman dead, 1 injured after shooting at large street gathering in KCMO

A deadly year: 1 woman dead, 1 injured after shooting at large street gathering in KCMO

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- Shots fired during a large street gathering overnight left one woman dead and another in the hospital, the capstone to what has been an extremely deadly year in Kansas City so far.

Police responded around 11 p.m. to an area near 26th Street and Southwest Boulevard in response to gunshots. There they found many cars leaving the area and were pointed toward two women lying on the sidewalk, according to a narrative released by the Kansas City Police Department.

Both women had been shot and were transported to a local hospital, where one of them died. A report by police notes that "there was a large gathering of vehicles and people in the street throughout the 2600 block of Southwest Boulevard, when multiple shots were fired from an unknown vehicle."

Police believe there were dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people at the gathering at the time of the shooting. Detectives are asking anyone who was there to contact police at 816-234-5043 or the TIPS Hotline anonymously at 474-TIPS.

The woman's death is Kansas City 142nd homicide of the year, over 30 more than it had exactly one year ago. There were 150 homicides in Kansas City during all of 2019, one of the deadliest years on record for the city.

A sergeant with KCPD told KCTV5 News that the department recognized the trend both locally and nationally were headed up at the end of last year. One of the steps the department took then was beefing up their investigative elements, said Sgt. Jake Becchina.

KCPD added two detectives to each of their homicide squads and also doubled the size of detective squads that investigate non-fatal shootings. Right now, the department's homicide clearance rate stands at 68 percent, which is up from last year's 55 percent. Becchina said the increase in detectives likely had a lot to do with that.

"It sounds kind of eerie to say, but we were almost ready for this, this increase," he said. "And we hope it subsides. We hope that this is the last one of the year. We don't want to investigate any more of these."

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Top 5 tips on getting a tattoo

Top 5 tips on getting a tattoo

There are certain things in life that are black and white, either you're in or you're out! A part of the club or on the outside looking in. Just ask our ultimate outsider, Neal Jones!

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Loophole could leave order to close bars powerless

Loophole could leave order to close bars powerless

The Kansas City Health Department director and the White House Coronavirus Task Force have suggested that all bars in the state be closed. But when KCTV5 News dug deeper, we found out there’s a loophole in city law that would make even that ineffective at a lot of spots.

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Authorities seek to identify thieves who rammed into businesses to steal cars, keys

Authorities seek to identify thieves who rammed into businesses to steal cars, keys

OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) - Car dealership owners and employees hope investigators can catch thieves who are smashing and ramming their way inside businesses to steal keys and cars.

Blocked entrances weren’t enough to stop thieves near 87th and Metcalf Avenue. They rammed into a truck parked in front of the exit.

About two weeks apart, thieves forced their way inside Reed Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in the early morning hours. It’s unclear if the same suspects are responsible for both crimes.

Each time they searched everywhere hoping they could find keys to vehicles on the lot.

On August 23, surveillance video shows the burglars handing stolen keys to each other than frantically hitting panic and unlock buttons.

“Didn’t get away with anything,” Reed Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Service Manager Greg McCall said.

Then on September 8, thieves broke in and stole keys for courtesy rental vehicles and a white truck. When the suspects found their getaway exit blocked by another truck, they rammed and rammed and rammed their way through reversing out of the lot.

“Just to get enough torque and speed to push it out of the way. It took a lot of force,” McCall said.

The destruction didn’t stop there. All six recovered stolen vehicles were crashed or damaged. One suspect bailed after wrecking one of the vehicles while running from police who tried to pull them over for driving more than 30 miles per hour over the speed limit.

“Upwards of $10,000 worth of damage. Very frustrating,” McCall said.

Just down the road near 93rd and Metcalf, more frustration and more damage. A group of seven or eight suspects broke into Bob Allen Ford in August.

“Backed into our building and ransacked the dealership,” Dealer Principal and Vice President of Bob Allen Ford Brad Hewlett said.

At Bob Allen, they recovered six of the seven vehicles stolen from them. One of the stolen cars sits on a flat tire and a metal rim after another police chase ended with a shredded tire.

“Hopefully they get caught,” Hewlett said.

Anyone who recognizes the suspects or has information about the car dealership burglaries can call Overland Park police or the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 816-474-TIPS.

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Northland apartment standoff ends peacefully

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – Police were involved in a standoff at a Northland apartment complex Wednesday night.

Just before 7 p.m., Kansas City police detectives conducted a residence check for an adult male who is wanted for a felony warrant in the 8400 block of N Overland Court.

According to police, detectives made verbal contact with the male. He refused to come out of the apartment or safely grant access to detectives. He also made statements to police that indicate he is armed and is threatening harm to himself.

Detectives backed away from the apartment and called in tactical officers and negotiators for a standoff. Police added that one additional adult was believed to be in the apartment, but there is no indication that adult is a hostage.

Around 9:10 p.m., police said the man voluntarily came out the front door and was taken into custody on his warrant.

The other person that was in the apartment was confirmed to be safe and unharmed.

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Overland Park game show room opening amid pandemic

Overland Park game show room opening amid pandemic

We have seen over and over again how businesses are closing their doors for good during this economic downturn. KCTV5 News’ Carolyn Long visited a very hands-on location that is actually planning to open in Overland Park, pandemic or not.

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KC council members boycott meeting over committee chair

KC council members boycott meeting over committee chair

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) - A chunk of city council businesses are on hold Wednesday after several members of a Kansas City, Missouri, committee decided to boycott Wednesday’s meeting.

“Three of my colleagues have decided not to attend the committee,” Councilwoman Teresa Loar said.

Transportation, Infrastructure and Operations Chair Teresa Loar was forced to end the committee meeting without addressing any business because three council members refused to show up.

Council members say they were trying to prove a point. They want Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas to remove Teresa Loar as Chair of The Transportation Committee they serve on.

For Council Members Eric Bunch, Melissa Robinson, and Kevin O’Neill, it started with a hand delivered letter to Mayor Lucas asking him to remove Councilwoman Loar back in August.

The letter asks the mayor to remove Councilwoman Loar as chair saying in part, “we have no confidence in her ability to facilitate and lead fair objective and inclusive processes.”

“This is unacceptable to have someone in a leadership position as chair of a committee who makes poor remarks, racist remarks towards a colleague, displays unethical behavior at times and frequently leaves meetings when things don’t go her way,” Councilman Eric Bunch said.

The group says the mayor made a verbal commitment to remove Councilwoman Loar but hasn’t yet. The council members who signed the letter say Councilwoman Loar should be ousted because of, “unprofessional, racist and unethical behavior.”

The calls for her to resign started after a tense exchange with a fellow council member. Councilwoman Loar implied that her colleague Melissa Robinson had not written a statement she read about a contract with KC Pet Project.

“That was a very nice speech someone wrote for you Mrs. Robinson. My guess is there’s labor somewhere,” Councilwoman Loar said from July 31st.

When Robinson pushed back, Loar characterized her as an angry black woman. After that, the mayor ordered Councilwoman Loar to complete implicit bias training.

“This is not about race, it never has been about race, this is about corruption and steering contracts at KCI, this is about new council members maybe being duped by outside influences,” Councilwoman Loar said.

Councilman Bunch says the implicit bias training isn’t enough.

“We were very clear with the mayor. We met with him six weeks ago that this isn’t just about the racist remarks, this is also about her leadership ability, we just wanted to be clear that we’re not accepting his inaction anymore and we’re trying to make a statement that this is unacceptable,” Councilman Bunch said.

The mayor has the power to make changes to any council committees. His communications director sent a brief statement saying the only verbal commitment the mayor has made on this was promising to look into changing the structure of the committee. He is still looking into that.

“As I noted earlier and as Mayor Lucas has shared with his colleagues, including Councilwoman Loar, the mayor will continue to evaluate committee assignments. Mayor Lucas has met twice with those who are aggrieved at which time he informed them he would evaluate their request, with Councilwoman Loar herself, with other members of the City Council, former Mayor Cleaver, and folks in the public—as he will continue to do because that is his job.”

Councilwoman Loar says she will respect whatever the mayor decides.

“If the Mayor asks me to I would consider it but I’m not going to resign on my own I’ve been doing this for years and I’m pretty damn good at it,” Councilwoman Loar said.

The committee is supposed to meet again next week. If enough members show up the committee will pick up the things they did not discuss Tuesday. KCTV5 News asked how long the group plans to boycott and councilman bunch declined to comment.

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Parson lauds declining rate of deaths from COVID-19

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — The number of new coronavirus cases remains high in Missouri, but Gov. Mike Parson on Wednesday cited the state's declining death rate as evidence that progress is being made.

Parson, speaking at a news conference, noted that in the early days of the pandemic in April and May, more than 7% of all cases were fatal. That percentage has gradually dropped and so far this month, just 0.3% of Missourians infected with the COVID-19 virus have died.

“This is all very encouraging and we continue to monitor this data each and every day,” Parson, a Republican, said.

Still, the number of confirmed cases has risen dramatically since the state reopened for business in mid-June. Missouri reported 1,191 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to 106,587 since counting began in March. Seven more deaths also were reported. All told, 1,739 Missourians have died from COVID-19.

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams said about 60% of new cases are occurring in areas outside of the state’s metropolitan areas. He said many of the places seeing spikes are mid-sized cities such as Joplin and Cape Girardeau.

“We really need to concentrate on these middle-sized communities,” Williams said.

Parson also cited as reason for optimism what he called “stable” hospitalization totals. But the <a target="&mdash;blank" href="https://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/health-med-fit/coronavirus/covid-19-hospitalizations-spike-remain-high-in-missouri/article%E2%80%94455580dc-fc80-5cd7-834c-67d99c45af0e.html">St. Louis Post-Dispatch</a> reported that three of the four highest days for hospitalizations have occurred over the past week.

Data shows 1,021 patients in hospitals with confirmed or presumed COVID-19 on Saturday, the second-highest day on record. The highest was Sept. 9, when 1,040 patients were hospitalized. The fourth-highest number of hospitalizations on record occurred Friday, with 1,008 patients.

PAGE MAINTAINS POWER IN ST. LOUIS COUNTY

The St. Louis County Council on Tuesday turned aside two bills that sought to take away pandemic-related power from County Executive Sam Page and the health department.

St. Louis County has had more cases and deaths than any other Missouri jurisdiction, and Page, a Democrat, has initiated stricter guidelines for dealing with the coronavirus than those required statewide.

Among those restrictions are limits on youth sports competitions, which have drawn several protests and rallies.

One bill turned down by the council would have given it more involvement in how long a pandemic-related emergency declaration from the county executive could last. The other bill would have required two-thirds of council members to approve extending orders from the health department director.

The council, in a 4-3 vote, declined to take up either bill.

MORE MASK MANDATES

At least two more jurisdictions are taking new steps aimed at slowing the virus' spread.

The St. Francois County Health Board in southeast Missouri on Tuesday approved a countywide mask mandate, the <a target="&mdash;blank" href="https://dailyjournalonline.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/sfc-gets-a-mask-mandate-effective-sept-21/article%E2%80%94f510a4ba-54dd-5954-aa68-3bd98587b9fd.html#tracking-source=home-top-story">Park Hills Daily Journal</a> reported.

The approval came despite heated opposition and protests from some residents of the county, which is about 70 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph Mayor Bill McMurray signed an emergency order mandating face coverings in most indoor areas except homes. The <a target="&mdash;blank" href="https://www.newspressnow.com/news/local%E2%80%94news/coronavirus/mayor-signs-order-mandating-masks-in-most-indoor-areas/article%E2%80%94ac77c230-f769-11ea-a2a3-6f4a66fce1f1.html">St. Joseph News-Press</a> reported that the mandate takes effect Thursday. The mask mandate comes as hospitalizations for COVID-19 have been spiking in St. Joseph.

NATIONAL GUARD REMAINS MOBILIZED

Parson has signed an executive order extending mobilization of the Missouri National Guard through Dec. 30, a move the governor said will allow the Guard to continue assisting in COVID-19 response efforts.

Parson initially mobilized the National Guard on March 27. The governor’s office said the Guard’s role has included testing support, transporting supplies and equipment, and meal distribution.

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Westport Ale House temporarily closed after COVID-19 outbreak

Westport Ale House temporarily closed after COVID-19 outbreak

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) - The Kansas City Health Department closed down Westport Ale House. Over the weekend there were positive cases at the bar, but Ale House stayed open until the health department shut down operations Tuesday night.

The health department knew about these cases last week, but they say there was an ongoing investigation over the weekend leading to Tuesday night’s suspension. People who live and work in the area say it’s now clear there are consequences.

After seven employees tested positive, the Kansas City Health Department is proving citizen complaints can lead to a temporary shutdown. Residents say this is a lesson for everyone.

“I just hope the other restaurants in the area take head of that,” Kansas City resident Dawn Boken said.

In a statement from the health department it says in part, “The health department has received multiple complaints about COVID-19 mask and crowd violations there. Management had also failed to provide disease investigators with complete information about the eight COVID-19 positive cases from August associated with their establishment.”

“Have respect for another person and for yourself, you know. Take care of your health,” Kansas City resident Gerardo Anchondo said.

The health department’s statement also says to stop the spread of the coronavirus, “They must protect them from preventable outbreaks, which Westport Ale House had not done. For the suspension to be lifted, Westport Ale House must submit a plan showing how they will comply with the COVID-19 order on masks and crowd capacity, and cooperate fully with the disease investigation.”

Locals say every business has made sacrifices.

“We’re all having ups and downs right now, but it’s best to keep everybody safe. We don’t want any spreading so we can get through this,” Kansas City resident James Furst said.

It’s not clear when the bar will be allowed to reopen.

KCTV5 News spoke exclusively with the owners of Westport Ale House. They say the claims that they aren’t cooperating with the disease investigation are a misunderstanding.

Since the health department sent KCTV5 News a statement Wednesday afternoon, they’ve received some more information from the bar, but there are still missing pieces.

“I feel like we are cooperating fully. We were just handed this information late yesterday afternoon. We are gathering the documents so we can hand them over to the health department,” Westport Ale House Owner Shawn Kane said.

Kane says they planned to meet with the health department Monday, before the department published information about positive employee cases.

“It’s unfortunate. I think this is telephone tag where we all haven’t had time to sit down, share information, be forthright about the measures we’ve been doing,” Kane said.

It’s common practice for Ale House to check staff and customer temperatures and ask people to keep their masks on.

Other businesses in the Westport neighborhood like Broadway Café aren’t even letting customers inside right now.

“I think there are certain precautions that we’re taking that others are ignoring,” Broadway Cafe Owner John Cates said.

Cates says it’s possible he shares customers with Ale House.

“It’s a little bit scary, yeah. We could have somebody come up and get a drink and be affected by something somebody else is doing close by,” Cates said.

“It’s a really challenging time and all we can do is know that we are operating in a way that’s going to keep our guests and our staff as safe as possible,” Snooze General Manager TJ McReynolds said.

Ale House says that’s their goal too.

“Everybody’s frustrated with the situation. We’re all trying to learn and create the best systems possible to keep the community safe and at the same time operate a business,” Kane said.

In order to open back up, the health department says they need to complete the disease investigation and the bar has to give them a compliance plan.

“We’re looking forward to continuing a conversation on how do we best move forward during this global pandemic on keeping the community safe and at the same time allowing a fun atmosphere at Westport Ale House for all the patrons we serve,” Kane said.

Kane says they plan on giving their customers a full explanation.

“Since it is a matter of public record and the community deserves to know what exactly happened here,” Kane said.

The health department said business with positive cases should follow CDC guidelines for isolation, quarantine and sanitation.

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Arrowhead Stadium to be used as polling location on Election Day

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – The Kansas City, Missouri, Election Board announced Wednesday that Arrowhead Stadium will be used as a polling location.

According to one of the directors for the Kansas City, Missouri, Election Board, Arrowhead Stadium will be open as a voting site for anyone who lives within the city limits of Kansas City, Missouri, in Jackson County.

Voters will use the voting machines provided in the large space provided.

The voting site will be open for Election Day only.

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Pandemic pushes KU dance instructors to learn news steps to teach

Pandemic pushes KU dance instructors to learn news steps to teach

LAWRENCE, KS (KCTV) - Classrooms look different this year, especially for dance classes.

Students in the performing arts classes at the University of Kansas have had to adapt to new safety procedures.

People may not be able to still dance together during a pandemic, but professors with the KU dance program say they’ll follow any CDC or university guidelines necessary to keep their groups of performers together.

Some of the modifications they’ve made include students and teachers wearing masks, and in some cases, ventilated face shields. Each dancer stays in their own 6-foot wide-space and wipes the space down before and after class.

Students can choose to learn in-person, through a livestream, or by watching videos of the instructor after class.

Hip-hop instructor Maya Tillman-Rayton told KCTV5 News that they have had to become their own audio and visual production teams.

“So a lot of it is just learning how to communicate differently so that everybody is getting the material,” she said.

They say some of the choreography is different to keep people from moving across the room or touching the floor too much.

Professor Michelle Hayes said teaching a flamenco class to in-person and online students is hard to balance.

“That makes me feel like a one-man band, the guy who’s got a tuba and an accordion,” she explained. “Teaching in those different modalities requires different skills.”

Tillman-Rayton is trying to make each class count, noting that, “a lot of it is just learning how to communicate differently so that everybody is getting the material.”

She also said distance learning and safety precautions slow down the speed of each class.

“Usually we come in and it’s nonstop from the moment you get in to class,” Tillman-Rayton explained. “Now we have to build in breaks because dancing with the masks presents a whole different challenge.”

The team says they will make any changes necessary to keep their students safe and together, and as Hays says, to keep them moving through this pandemic.

“For dancers, taking class is something like daily prayer.”

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